I used to think that less suffering would come from managing my thinking so I could create a nicer experience for myself. I believed that if I could avoid negative thoughts then I wouldn’t have negative emotions. I did not realize how much work this would be, nor did I see how the pressure of constantly trying to control my thoughts would create more suffering rather than less.
I discovered the easier way to live in a nicer feeling more of the time was paradoxical. Instead of me trying to create a good feeling, what I noticed is that if I left my thoughts and feelings alone, meaning I did not judge my experience, no matter what it was, as wrong or bad, my negative feelings moved through me more quickly and with less impact. Rather than trying to block myself off from feelings I didn’t like, I discovered being open to my feelings created less suffering.
Previously, I was afraid to do this. I thought my negative emotions would engulf me and take over. Relaxing into them seemed like a crazy thing to do. They felt too intense and too scary for me to open up to them and soften around them. I saw any negative emotional experience as something to fight against. It was a signal that there was a problem. I needed to do something about it. The problem was something faulty with me, and if I could fix myself then the negative emotional experiences would stop.
But when I learned that negative feelings are simply the effect of a thought storm that will pass, the temporary nature of the experience helped me to see my resilience. Now I see the misunderstanding in thinking that my negative emotional experience meant something about me. I recognize that all emotional experiences are normal. They do not mean anything about who we are. They are simply indicators about the quality of my thoughts and my state of mind. Seeing things helped me to relax.
Seeing the impersonal nature of my emotional experience helped me to see my feelings don’t mean anything about me. They are all normal and they are all transitory. This made it easier for me to stay open and not contract even when I am experiencing upsetting feelings. At first, it was a novel experience for me to not fight what I was feeling. It felt counter-intuitive, but with experience, I saw that emotional energy moves through me as a storm moves through the sky. By allowing and not judging the experience it comes and goes more gracefully.
This helped me to see that there is no managing needed when it comes to my emotional experience. The natural intelligence of how the body-mind system works is far more capable of working things out than I am. I can simply allow myself to be open and let the natural intelligence inside of me do what it knows how to do which is to bring me back to peace and well-being inside of myself. Thoughts settle by themselves. This takes even more pressure off! Now there is nothing even when our thoughts do get unsettled. This is even more reassuring!
Seeing this helped me to be with my emotional experience in a whole new way. Of course, I can sometimes forget all of this, but for the most part, even when I am having uncomfortable feelings, my understanding helps me to be with the experience in a way where I don’t panic, and I know not to get really involved with my thinking when it is stirred up. It might be very compelling, but I have the sense to not think about the disturbing thoughts, to try to change them, or add on to them. Instead, I let them be. I am gentle with myself when they are present. I do what occurs to me to take care of myself, and eventually, the thoughts are gone. My feelings stabilize. My mood lifts. I get back my clarity and perspective, and I am back in a good feeling again.
The simplicity of learning how to be with my emotional experience in this way has been life-changing for me. I used to be incapacitated by my emotional experience and my low moods. I would get sick frequently and spend time in bed each month unable to function. The stress and toil of dealing my low moods and the accompanying feelings felt too much for me. It definitely felt like there was something wrong with me.
Now I see the difficulty was not my emotional experience. It was how I was relating to it. It was my judgments against myself that made it hard, and it was exhausting because I was trying to manage it and control it. Letting that effort go and just being with what is, is so much easier.
I hope you can see the normalcy of your emotional experience whatever it is. Recognizing that feelings are transitory because thoughts are transitory will hopefully allow you to stay open to your experience and allow it to move through you so you can feel your resilience and the natural buoyancy of your mood. It works the same way for everyone. Thoughts come and go. Emotions come and go. Mood goes up and down. AND there is an innate intelligence inside of each one of us that is designed to move us toward peace and equilibrium.
We can work against it and focus on negative thoughts and keep bringing them to life by resisting them or gathering evidence to support them, but no matter how much we do that, our natural design is for thoughts to flow when we allow them. The allowing became easier for me when I understood the design.
It felt paradoxical to me that by allowing my emotions to be and not trying to change them resulted in less suffering. It was the opposite of what I expected. And it gave me more inner freedom. Rather than me being consumed by managing my experience and overwhelmed by emotions, my human experience felt lighter and easier to be with.
Wishing you a lighter experience with your humanness. May you see how to allow the intelligence behind the human design to do the work for you so you have more freedom to enjoy your life and live it with an open heart.
Rohini Ross is co-founder of “The Rewilders.” Listen to her podcast, with her partner Angus Ross, Rewilding Love. They believe too many good relationships fall apart because couples give up thinking their relationship problems can’t be solved. In this season of the Rewilding Love Podcast, Rohini and Angus help a couple on the brink of divorce due to conflict. Angus and Rohini also co-facilitate private couples' intensives that rewild relationships back to their natural state of love. Rohini is also the author of the ebook Marriage, and she and Angus are co-founders of The 29-Day Rewilding Experience and The Rewilding Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org.